My Journal

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West Coast Trip, Seattle, Portland, L.a., NBA Season, Basketball Trip
Talking about Trip, Wins, Place, Teammates and Players. Photo: shutterstock.com

We needed a couple of wins on our West Coast trip and we got them over the weekend in Seattle and Portland. We felt like we should have gone 3-0 out there, but we had a tough loss in Los Angeles. It’s been a little frustrating in some ways this year, in that we have dropped some games that we were right there in the fourth quarter. Some games we just couldn’t put our opponent away, or others we couldn’t climb all the way back from a deficit.

So it was nice to put together a couple of wins against division rivals on their home floors. We feel that we are capable of not only competing in the Western Conference, but also winning a championship this season. I believe that we have the pieces to do it; it’s just about stringing some wins together and getting a little confidence and momentum going our way.

I’m sure many of you heard or read about our travel troubles on this last trip, but we don’t want to make excuses for not picking up a W in Southern California. We were supposed to fly to Los Angeles on Tuesday afternoon of last week, but due to mechanical difficulties with our charter plane, the flight got pushed back until that evening and then eventually to the next day. We did not leave Minnesota until mid-morning on the day of the game versus the Lakers. We arrived in Los Angeles in the early afternoon, only hours before the tip-off. I know many of you fly for business all the time, so I am not going to complain about the way we travel. However, getting off a cross-country flight and playing is not ideal.

After the game against the Lakers we were in the air for about 10 minutes when the pilot came over the loudspeakers and announced that they could not retract the landing gear. He said that it was unstable and that we were heading back to Los Angeles to figure it out. After circling the airport for 90 minutes or so, they decided to do a fly-by past the control tower. I guess the folks in the tower got out their binoculars as we buzzed by at 300 feet to see if the gear was set for a landing. The flight attendants said to prepare for the worst, so obviously there was a little concern on everyone’s face. Needless to say we were all buckled in pretty tight as we came in for a safe landing back where we started.

Normally a flight is the time when we as players can kind of sit back, relax and unwind. In the players’ section you can normally find a group of guys playing dominoes or cards. Last year there were a few guys that were really into chess. Latrell Sprewell is a great player and Gary Trent was just phenomenal as well. Jerry Sichting represents the coaching staff, as he dabbles in the game a little. There are a lot of guys that just want to unwind by watching a DVD. Recently, Fred Hoiberg and Wally Szczerbiak had not seen the movie Napoleon Dynamite, so I brought it along. They both gave their critique of it. I will say one liked it way more than the other, but I won’t reveal the bigger fan. There are a few guys that like to play computer games against each other. The thing that I enjoy most is when we get in a cabin-wide discussion of a variety of topics, or when KG, Erv Johnson or Sam Cassell tell stories about different guys they have played against during their careers.

One of the memorable events from this last trip was that KG had food catered on the plane from an upscale restaurant. We got to have steak and chicken and all the good things that go with them. While KG’s gesture was very generous, it is even more so when he is the one who is serving the food to everyone. He doesn’t get his own plate until everyone else has eaten and is situated and comfortable for the flight. The thing that really stands out is the way Kevin treats people. On every team or in every organization there is a hierarchy of players or workers and usually everyone knows where they stand. In our hierarchy, KG is definitely the top dog. He demands the best from everyone in our locker room, but he is also outstanding at communicating with everyone on the team and he really just wants to see us all succeed. I truly believe that he is one of the best leaders in professional sports.

I look forward to writing this diary every week and will do my best to give you readers an inside glimpse into an NBA season. Until next week take care.

— Mark Madsen

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My 29th Birthday, Injury, Ndudi Ebi, NBA, Minneapolis, Minnesota, Utah, Kevin McHale, Sacramento
I celebrate my 29th birthday, talking about games and peoples. Photo: shutterstock.com

Sometimes if the team makes a one-day trip, the players on the Injured List stay at home. So right now, I’m at my house recovering from our practice while the rest of the team is on a flight to Milwaukee.

Even though I don’t practice in the conventional sense, they still work me very hard. Today our strength coach put me through a pretty intense, full-body weight room workout. My broken thumb is getting better slowly. Right now there are two pins sticking out of my thumb about a quarter-inch that are drilled another inch or so into the bone to hold everything together. On either Thursday or Friday of this week the doctors are going to remove them. I will gradually start doing some rehabilitation and hope to be on the court in three to four weeks.

On a more personal note, I celebrated my 29th birthday last Friday. I didn’t do anything too out of the norm, as we had a morning shoot-around and then a game against Utah that night. After the game some friends of mine took me out to dinner in uptown Minneapolis. These are people that I’ve gotten to know since arriving in Minnesota, and have become good friends in the last year. It was a little bit different then the birthdays I celebrated as a kid with nine siblings (four brothers and five sisters). We had the same family traditions that everyone else has, the cake, ice cream and gifts, but with one twist.

The only difference is that my parents would have us go around the table and have everyone say one nice thing about the person celebrating the birthday. It’s always fun to hear the different comments that everyone makes. That’s how we did it growing up and that’s how we do it to this day when we get together as a family.

With me not traveling this week, I’ll go in to practice tomorrow with Ndudi Ebi and we’ll both lift weights and maybe ride the bike. When we both get healthy enough, Kevin McHale will work us out and put us through a bunch of really hard drills on the court. I think Kevin is one of the few GMs in the NBA who really works with players constantly. Some of us watched him play when we were growing up (although I don’t think Ndudi was born yet) and I can definitely remember when he seemed to leave his man in the dust in the post.

When I was a free agent trying to decide between Minnesota and Dallas, I remember when Kevin told me on the phone that he works with players after practice. When I told my Dad how he gets involved in the teaching process, my Dad was so excited because he was a Celtics fan for quite a while.

Today’s practice was pretty intense. I think everyone was a little bit frustrated that we lost the game against Sacramento yesterday. But after a loss, most teammates and coaches just come the next day with more resolve and ready to work hard. Once you start working out and start to practice it’s a lot easier to let go of the mistakes of the previous game. I still remember what Sam Cassell said to me early last year after a game we lost. I think he saw that I was down and said, “Don’t worry about it Mad Dog…just remember Annie.”

I tried to figure out who Annie was and I really couldn’t figure out what Sam was talking about. Then he added, “She’s the one who has the song, ‘The sun will come out tomorrow.’ ” Sam is someone who never lets anything get him down and he’s a teammate who cares about everyone in the locker room.

Thanks for reading this journal and I hope to have some more inside information for you next week.

— Mark Madsen

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Minnesota, Timberwolves, NBA Players, NBA, Samuel Dalembert, Thomas McKinney, Eddie Griffin, Trenton Hassell, John Thomas
Minnesota is a U.S. state in the Midwestern United States. Minnesota was carved out of the eastern half of the Minnesota Territory and admitted to the Union as the 32nd state on May 11, 1858. Known as the "Land of 10,000 Lakes". Photo: shutterstock.com

I’m very excited to share with Timberwolves fans in Greater Minnesota and the Upper Midwest a glimpse into what life is like for an NBA player on a weekly basis. I want to show people the rigors of the NBA, the ups and the downs and all that comes in between. Hopefully this weekly diary will give people an insider’s view into what our team is going through in the good times and the bad.

Unfortunately, just as I was gearing up for this project, I had a little bit of a setback in that I fractured my left thumb in a game against Philadelphia on January 7. I was trying to draw a charging call on Samuel Dalembert and hit the deck. From the way the thumb swelled up right away, I knew that probably was not a good sign – but at least I drew the foul! I had surgery the next day and during that process had a couple of pins implanted in my thumb. Additionally, I had my hand placed in a cast. The doctors are telling me that it likely will be a four-to-eight week healing process, obviously I’m hoping for the short end.

In the mean time I’m trying my best to stay in shape. I’m working out every day with our strength and conditioning coach Thomas McKinney. He is putting me through cardiovascular routines and working on quickstep and explosive squat drills. My hope is to come back with better stamina and endurance then I had prior to the injury.

As I write this I can’t help but think how excited I am to be traveling with the team this week for the three-game road trip out west to Los Angeles, Seattle and Portland. It is always a lot of fun to go back to Los Angeles where I played three years for the Lakers. Obviously, I have a ton of good memories from my days there. Additionally, I will get to see my grandfather and a lot of close friends.

I suppose I should talk a little bit about basketball and what our team is going through right now. We entered the season with our team intact from the one that went to the Western Conference Finals a year ago. Plus, we were able to add good players in Anthony Carter and Eddie Griffin. I think right now one of the big things for our team has been the lineup change and the fact that everyone, coaches and players alike are working hard in finding combinations to put on the floor.

We have had a lot of success with one lineup in the past and I think Flip (Saunders) made a decision to bring scoring and firepower off the bench and start the game with a more defensive group. It’s nice to have a player like Trenton Hassell in there because he is such a great defender. To me he brings a dimension to the game where he can lock up such a wide variety of players. Then the other team is going to have to adjust to a great scorer in Wally Szczerbiak coming off the bench. Wally has been so selfless in coming off the bench and has really put up some big numbers in this role. He can score from so many different areas on the court.

After my injury we went out and added a new player in John Thomas. He was with us in camp and was one of the final cuts. John adds a unique dimension to the team as he can bang and scrap and claw down low, but then he can step out and has a soft touch on the perimeter and in the slot area. John has the ability to defend seven-footers because of his strength, in addition to being able to step-out and defend the pick-and-roll.

I’m looking forward to writing this diary each week and will let you know how it goes on the trip out west.

— Mark Madsen